The Relationship Between Domestic Violence And Alcohol

A Hartford, Connecticut woman recently died after her ex-boyfriend came to her apartment and killed her. Before the ex-boyfriend came over, police said that he smoked crack cocaine and drank alcohol. The man then went to her the woman’s apartment and brutally stabbed her death.

The woman's brother commented that people need to realize that domestic violence is real, and “we know there are the signs, but we need to realize that everybody has a role to play in this….” The man has been charged with murder and is being held in jail on a $2 million bond.

Does Alcohol Increase Incidents Of Domestic Violence?

Too often, there are stories in the news like these that involve incidents of alcohol and domestic violence. Given the frequency in which these stories appear in the news, the public starts to associate alcohol as the cause of domestic violence incidents. 

For example, Canyon, Texas residents just recently approved the legal sale of beer and wine for off-premises consumption and the legal sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders. While residents overwhelmingly approved the change, some residents did not support the change. Rev. Glen Stocklher, pastor of Bible Believers Baptist Church, believes that that the change “will increase the crime rate as far as domestic violence, probably some public intoxication, and those sort of things.”

Is this true? Does alcohol in fact cause or contribute to the frequency of domestic violence incidents? Or, has the public developed a false connection between alcohol and domestic violence? Research and various articles suggest both.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says that while substance abuse does not cause domestic violence, there is a statistical correlation between the two issues. Regular alcohol abuse is apparently one of the leading risk factors for domestic violence. At the same time, however, the NCADV says “no evidence suggests a causal relationship between substance abuse and domestic violence.” Therefore, if one is treated for alcoholism, this will not necessarily cure one’s abusive behavior. Nevertheless, the NCADV suggests that because of this relationship, both issues should be treated simultaneously.

The relationship between alcohol and domestic violence may come more from the experience and expectations from drinking, rather than the physiological effects of alcohol. In an article from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, research shows that individual men are more likely to engage in boisterous or aggressive behaviors when under the influence than when sober because the cultural norms condition this male behavior. This leads to the conclusion that men are therefore more likely to engage in physical violence or domestic violence while drinking.

Texas Law On Domestic Violence

Under Texas law, family or dating violence is a crime. Family violence includes the act of a family member against another “that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.”

The definition of dating violence includes the same acts as family violence. The difference, however, is what constitutes a dating relationship. A “dating relationship” means one “between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” It does not include “a casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization in a business or social context.”

The penalty for family or dating violence depends on the nature and severity of the conduct. A charge can range from a simple assault Class A misdemeanor to an aggravated felony charge. If you have been charged with in a domestic violence incident, a Texas domestic violence attorney can help you with your case.


Another Houston Baker Street Pub Sued

Who is Liable, the seller or the drinker?

Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub is being sued again following the death of Robert Wilhite’s 2011 death.  Wilhite’s family is accusing the pub of over-serving alcoholic beverages to him just before he died near the Willowbrook bar’s location.  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) governs seller/server laws in Texas, and specifically states that establishments who sell or serve alcohol and their employees are responsible for making sure patrons are not served to the point of intoxication.  Over the past three years there have been several lawsuits involving Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub.  Below is a timeline of some of the latest lawsuits.   Do you think the bar is liable?  Do you think the server is liable?  Or, do you think the patron drinking the alcohol is liable?  Leave your comments below.  This should be a good discussion!

April 2009 Delia Jones sued the pub following a serious car accident that killed her daughter and injured her son-in-law after they left the bar.  Her daughter Jessica Ayala was killed in the accident, but her husband Guillermo Ayala survived.  Guillermo was driving their vehicle oh Texas Hwy 3 when he lost control and crashed into a tree. 

February 2011 Sherlock Pub’s River Oaks location was closed (and still is) after HPD officer Jose Coronado killed Omar Ventura in the bar’s parking lot.  Both men had been drinking alcohol inside the pub before the incident.  Coronado was reportedly trying to break up a fight in the parking lot, when he found it necessary to fire his weapon at Omar and his brother Rolando Ventura. Omar's brother Rolando survived the incident.  Omar Ventura’s family sued Baker Street Pub accusing them of serving alcohol negligently, specifically blaming their happy hour policy as a catalyst in the incident.  Coronado was temporarily relieved of duty, as HPD rules state that officers cannot use their enforcement authority when under the influence of alcohol.  Coronado was under the legal limit when he attempted to break up the fight.

November 2012 A 24-year-old bartender at Baker Street Pub’s Woodlands location was arrested early on a Sunday morning after allegedly over-serving a patron the night before.  The allegedly intoxicated man, who was also arrested, was reportedly shouting racial slurs and stumbling in public. He didn’t need to hire a DWI lawyer because he never even tried to drive a vehicle.  The man was charged with Public Intoxication and disturbing the peace.  But the bartender went to jail…

June 2012 Another lawsuit was filed against their Clear Lake location in 2012 by the family of Martinique Rubio, who claimed that the pub was responsible for his death in 2011.  However, unlike the other cases Rubio was not driving when he left the pub.  He rode in the back of a friend’s truck, but fell out and was killed by another car on the road. 

January 2013 Robert Wilhite’s family sues Baker Street Pub seeking damages for his death, claiming that the church going father was served past the point of intoxication.  The family claims that Baker Street Pub was negligent in serving Wilhite alcohol, and letting him get in a car to drive.  This is the third time in as many years that the Baker Street Pub has been sued by a family alleging that they served a patron past the point of intoxication, allegedly causing their motor vehicle deaths. 

What do you think?

Unfortunately for the owners of Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub, their bar is the common denominator in all of these unfortunate events.  One could blame the popularity of the bar and the media attraction it gets for the countless lawsuits filed against it.  Conversely one could point the finger at the bar’s serving policy, or the individuals who served the customers themselves.  Is this really a series of unfortunate events or is there a pattern here?


If Arrested for DWI in Houston, Texas - Can I still Drive?

Assuming that you were driving on a valid Texas Driver's License at the time that you were arrested for DWI, there should be no restriction on your driving privileges immediately after you are arrested for the DWI.  You can legally get in your car and drive as if you were not arrested for DWI.

If you do nothing at all, you will automatically have your Texas driver's license suspended after 40 days.  However, if you request a hearing to contest the automatic suspension of your driver's license within the first 15 days after your DWI arrest, Texas DPS can not suspend your Texas driver's license unless and until you have a hearing on your Texas driver's license.  This hearing on your Driver's License is called an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing.

DPS does on occasion lose or misplace the request for your ALR hearing and DPS has taken the position that it is your responsibility as the person arrested for DWI to "prove" that you made a proper request for an ALR hearing.  Therefore, it is imperative that you hire a competent Houston DWI lawyer to represent you on your DWI and ALR cases.

Can Harris County Prosecute for Boating While Intoxicated off the LaPorte Coast?

The simple answer is, they can try.  Jurisdiction in Harris County criminal cases is not normally an issue, however, there is more to that story.

A few months ago, LaPorte Police Officers arrested a Harris County citizen for Boating While Intoxicated.  Client was boating in the waters of Galveston Bay adjacent to LaPorte, Texas.  It should be noted that LaPorte is wholly within Harris County.  LaPorte police officers flagged the defendant down and ordered him to shore, ultimately arresting him for Boating While Intoxicated.  They called the Harris County District Attorney's office and they accepted the BWI charge.

During the course of our representation, Client informed us that the portion of Galveston Bay adjacent to LaPorte where the "boating" took place is actually a part of Chambers County, not Harris County.  After bringing this to the prosecutor's attention. he contacted a "higher up" at LaPorte PD to verify - sure enough, client was in Chambers County at the time of the "boating."

Apparently the LaPorte PD and Chambers County officers have an "Agreement" that it is OK for LaPorte to enforce the law in the waters of Chambers County.  Unfortunately for the LaPorte PD, they did not consult Harris County defense attorneys prior to entering this "Agreement" to see if we were OK with it.

Harris County does not have jurisdiction to hear cases that occur in other counties.  However, it is up to the accused to bring this to the attention of the court.

Deferred Adjudication for a Houston DWI?

A question that we here fairly often, "Can you get Deferred Adjudication for a Houston DWI?"  Not since 1984 have Houston DWI suspects been able to receive a deferred for their DWI arrests.  That' right, the Texas Legislature took the deferred probation option away from DWI suspects over 25 years ago.

What is more surprising to those that don't practice criminal law, a citizen charged with any other crime in Texas is eligible for deferred probation.  Murder? Sexual Assault of a Child? Aggravated Assault?  Drug Dealing?  Yes, each and every one of these crimes is eligible for deferred adjudication probation. but not DWI.

Why is it that DWI is the only crime in Texas that one is not eligible for deferred?  Could it be that we really think a DWI is a worse crime than murder?  Could it be that the Legislature is beholden to someone?  Could that someone be the incredibly powerful lobbyists at MADD?  Let me know your thoughts.

Does Driver's License Surcharge Lead to More DWI Dismissals?

Just a little background.  In 2004, the Texas Legislature mandated that anyone convicted of DWI in Texas is required to pay a driver's license surcharge in order to legally continue to drive.  The surcharge on a driver's license is between $1,000 and $2,000 per year for 3 years.  The state has failed in its attempt to collect many of the imposed surcharges.

The question, what purpose does the surcharge (I call it a tax or  fine) serve?  Does the surcharge help resolve DWI cases or simply encourage citizens to go to trial?

According to Derk Wadas of Plano, "A former District Judge testified before the Texas Public Safety Commission that the effect of the surcharge program has been to actually increase DWI dismissals because so many more DWI cases are being tried to juries since the passage of the surcharge law."

Maybe the surcharge is actually helping many of those charged with DWI from ever having a conviction.  More and more dismissals means less and less money for the government.

Texas Drunk Driving Campaign - False and Misleading

This billboard image was recently sent to me and it reminded me of the Texas DWI campaign,


The problem that Houston driver's face - Houston Police officers believe the statement to be true.  Unfortunately, the statement is very true for all intents and purposes.  Many citizens are arrested simply because they have had a drink, smell like alcohol and are driving.

This is just simply not the law.  The law allows a person to drink and then drive so long as they are not intoxicated at the time they are driving. 

I believe the Texas Department of Public Safety is not only trying to curb the number of people that drive while intoxicated, but also to taint the jury pool for DWI cases.  The state and DPS  are purposefully misstating the law on the  DPS signs in the hope that jurors will believe that the law is any drinking and then driving is enough for a DWI conviction.

What is Brady Material? Here's a Simplified Definition

It seems that Brady material is an ongoing problem with the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

I offer this on behalf of Jordan Lewis in our office.  His simplified definition of Brady material is something like this -

If a prosecutor learns something about a case and his/her first reaction is, I hope the defense lawyer doesn't find out about this, then it is probably Brady material.

This is to all of the young prosecutors out there, if there is any question about whether something is Brady material or not, turn it over.  As a matter of fact, if you are trying to convict someone and take away his/her freedom, don't you think it is fair to give the defense everything you have - especially the information that tends to show he/she didn't do it?

Doesn't take long for police to take blood without a warrant

The new Texas DWI law that allows police officers to take blood without a search warrant or any other judicial involvement went into effect September 1, 2009.  According to the Harris County District Attorney's office, over the Labor Day weekend the police forced 6 citizens to give blood - even though they refused to allow the blood sample and the police did not have a warrant.  They also forced 32 other individual to give blood pursuant to a search warrant.

As a group, we should renounce the new law and tell our legislature we do not condone our government intruding into our bodies.  Our founding fathers are turning over in their graves thinking that our state legislature has given the Government so much power.

When are we going to say enough is enough?  Let's keep the government out of our homes and out of our bodies.  The government has no business intruding into our bodies and homes.  Each and every time the legislature meets, more and more of our freedoms are taken away.  Let's also remember that a DWI in Texas is a misdemeanor, barring prior convictions, serious bodily harm / death, or a if there is a child passenger.


New Texas DWI Laws - More freedoms taken away

The most recent Texas Legislature has again given the State more power over its citizens to invade a persons body without a search warrant.  Senate Bill 328 allows the police to take your blood in a Texas DWI case WITHOUT a search warrant in the following situations:

  1. When an individual involved in a wreck causes any bodily injury to another person;
  2. When an individual is arrested for DWI with a child passenger under 15 years of age;
  3. When an individual has 2 or more convictions for DWI; or
  4. When an individual has been previously convicted of DWI with a child passenger under 15 years of age, intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter.

At first glance, this new law seems to make sense.  However, let's look a little closer.  What the statute allows our government to do is force you to give your blood - yes, strap you down and forcibly take your blood without a search warrant.  There will be no independent review of the officers actions before they force this blood draw. 

My concern for our citizens is that a police officers will use this DWI statute to make marginal arrests and force individuals to give blood without a search warrant when they otherwise would not have made an arrest at all. We are giving the police more and more power every day.  Now the interested party - the arresting officer - makes the decision to draw our blood, not a Judge as was previously required.

Anytime we let an officer invade, probe or take fluids from our bodies, there should be a warrant required.  We all have a protected interest in our bodies and the legislature has deprived us of our right to require at a bare minimum a search warrant that is signed by a detached and neutral judge.  Instead, we are allowing an interested party, the police officer making a DWI arrest, to make a decision with no oversight.  Shame on our legislature giving the police the ability to search and seize our blood without a warrant.

The hope is that through DWI lawyers fighting this type of legislation, the legislature will realize the threat to our constitution and change the law or that the judiciary will strike the law down as an unconstitutional invasion on our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure.

Image:  Sharon Gott